President Obama has put the credit card industry on notice, pressing executives to make card deals easier to understand and to rein in hikes in fees and interest rates.
The president supports legislation moving through Congress that would speed the implementation of tougher card rules that federal regulators have already set, but which don’t take effect until July 1, 2010.
But card users don’t have to wait. You can take steps right now to minimize or eliminate the effect of sky-high late fees and interest-rate hikes.
Many of the most devilish problems, like over-the-limit charges and blocks on card usage, happen because the card user has simply lost track of account balances and due dates, or because a card bill came late or a payment that was sent on time was delayed in the mail.
The computer-savvy card user can avoid all that with online account access, which is offered by most card issuers. Account balances, recent transactions and payment due dates are all visible online.
If you use a credit card issued by the bank that also has your checking account, you can make monthly payments online, virtually instantaneously, avoiding the delays of ordinary mail.
Many card issuers now allow customers to set up automatic online payments to be made on scheduled dates, drawing from linked checking accounts. These advance payments are especially useful if you’ll be traveling. Make the automatic payments large enough for the minimum required to avoid late fees. In addition, don’t’ make a habit of only paying the minimum, as that can cost you a fortune in interest over the years. To get a better idea, use the Minimum Credit Card Payment and the Payoff Credit Card calculators at BankingMyWay.com.